Related to: 'A Hell for Heroes'

Julie Sarkissian blogs about the problems facing the protagnist of her debut novel, DEAR LUCY

Something's Wrong With Lucy - But What?

Lucy is different – that much is clear. She speaks like a child, doesn’t recognize social boundaries, flies into rages, and treasures rotten food. Her cognition is impaired, her vocabulary is very limited and she cannot read or write. But what – precisely – is wrong with her is left up to the reader. Lucy is the protagonist of my novel, DEAR LUCY, and from the first sentence of the book I ever wrote it was obvious that Lucy was cognitively different. The way Lucy describes herself is as “missing too many words.” Her mother calls her “difficult.” Readers of early drafts of the book had a few theories as to Lucy’s condition; autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome. But Lucy’s mother has kept her from going to school and Lucy has never seen a doctor. So in the fictional reality of the book there is no official diagnosis. But as the novel progressed I wondered – should I have one? I was torn. If Lucy was presenting enough symptoms to point to a real condition, was I ignoring the obvious not to fold that condition into my development of her character? Was it insensitive of me to allude to aspects of certain real, life-altering conditions but not assign a specific condition to Lucy? I worried about appropriating aspects of serious conditions without treating those conditions with proper respect and acknowledgement. And though any clinical diagnosis would probably not be explicit in the novel, I wondered if I would be ignoring an opportunity to bring attention to a real disorder when people asked me about Lucy’s condition, the way The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time did for autism. On the other hand, I had concerns that if I chose a diagnosis for Lucy, I would be ascribing to her qualities that she wouldn’t have otherwise presented. Lucy had her own will over my writing and over the novel. I didn’t want to yoke Lucy’s expression by keeping her behavior and abilities consistent with a clinical condition. Accuracy would also become a critical issue if Lucy’s condition was named. Ultimately I chose not to diagnose Lucy, though I worry the artistic freedom provided by that decision comes at the price of being judged for being too liberal with my treatment of cognitive disorders. Now that publication is a few months away, I am apprehensive of how my treatment of Lucy’s cognitive limitations will be judged. I have yet to talk to a reader who has a learning different child, or works with learning different people, and that conversation is one I will be honored, and not a bit anxious, to have.

Alan Titchmarsh

Alan Titchmarsh is known to millions through the popular BBC TV programmes British Isles: A Natural History, How to be a Gardener, Ground Force and Gardeners' World. But he started out in far humbler beginnings, in a rural childhood on the edge of Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire.After a spell at Kew he became a horticultural journalist, as an Editor of gardening magazines, before becoming a freelance broadcaster and writer.He has twice been named 'Gardening Writer of the Year' and for four successive years was voted 'Television Personality of the Year' by the Garden Writers' Guild. In 2004 he received their Lifetime Achievement Award.Alan has appeared on radio and television both as a gardening expert and as an interviewer and presenter, fronting such programmes as Points of View, Pebble Mill, Songs of Praise, Titchmarsh's Travels and Ask the Family, and since 1983 has presented the BBC's annual coverage of The Chelsea Flower Show. He now has his own daytime TV show on ITV, The Alan Titchmarsh Show. Alan has written more than forty gardening books, as well as seven best-selling novels, including his 2008 success, Folly, which have all made the Sunday Times Bestsellers List. Alan has published three volumes of memoirs; Trowel and Error sold over 200,000 copies in hardback when published in 2002, and Nobbut A Lad, about his Yorkshire childhood, was published in October 2006 with similar success, and his third volume of memoir Knave of Spadeswas a Sunday Times bestseller.He was made MBE in the millennium New Year Honours list and holds the Victoria Medal of Honour, the Royal Horticultural Society's highest award. He lives with his wife and a menagerie of animals in Hampshire where he gardens organically.

Anthony Riches

Anthony Riches began his lifelong interest in war and soldiers when he first heard his father's stories about World War II. This led to a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. He began writing the story that would become Wounds of Honour after a visit to Housesteads in 1996. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children.www.anthonyriches.comwww.twitter.com/AnthonyRiches

Cesar Millan

Founder of the Dog Psychology Center in Los Angeles, CESAR MILLAN is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Cesar's Way, Be the Pack Leader, Member of the Family. How to Raise the Perfect Dog and Cesar's Rules. He is the star of The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, the Nat Geo Wild Channel's top-rated show. In addition to his educational seminars and work with unstable dogs, Cesar co-founded the Cesar and Ilusion Millan Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping shelters and rescue groups. 'Cesar you're a marvel, an absolute marvel' - Paul O'Grady, The Paul O'Grady Show.'[Cesar] arrives amid canine chaos and leaves behind peace.' - Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker.

Charles Brandt

Born and raised in New York, Charles Brandt is a former high school teacher, welfare investigator and homicide prosecutor. He has been named by his peers as one of the best lawyers in America. He now lives in Delaware with his family.

Chris Ryan

Former SAS corporal and the only man to escape death or capture during the Bravo Two Zero operation in the 1991 Gulf War, Chris Ryan turned to writing thrillers to tell the stories the Official Secrets Act stops him putting in his non-fiction. His novels have gone on to inspire the Sky One series Strike Back. Born near Newcastle in 1961, Chris Ryan joined the SAS in 1984. During his ten years there he was involved in overt and covert operations and was also sniper team commander of the anti-terrorist team. During the Gulf War, Chris Ryan was the only member of an eight-man unit to escape from Iraq, where three colleagues were killed and four captured. It was the longest escape and evasion in the history of the SAS. For this he was awarded the Military Medal. He wrote about his experiences in the bestseller The One That Got Away, which was adapted for screen, and since then has written three other works of non-fiction, over twenty bestselling novels and a series of childrens' books.

David Suchet

David Suchet CBE is an acclaimed British actor. He has enjoyed great success with the RSC and in London's West End. He is best known in television for his portrayal of Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot. He is also a practising Anglican. In 2012 he made a series for the BBC called 'In the Footsteps of St Paul'. Follow him on Twitter @David_Suchet

Elton John

Elton John is one of the most esteemed, beloved, and best-selling songwriters, performers, and recording artists in history. His monumental career has spanned five decades, during which time he has sold 250 million records worldwide. His single, 'Candle in the Wind 1997,' a tribute to his friend Princess Diana, is the best-selling single in Billboard history. Elton John has received numerous Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for The Lion King, and Tony Awards for The Lion King, and Aida, and Billy Elliot. In 1998, the Queen of England knighted him Sir Elton John, CBE. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2004, he received the Kennedy Center Honor for his lifetime contributions to American culture and excellence through the performing arts. The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), founded in 1992, has raised $275 million to fight the AIDS epidemic and help those affected by it. EJAF has supported hundreds of projects in 55 countries.

Fern Riddell

Dr Fern Riddell is a historian specialising in sex, suffrage and culture in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. She appears regularly on TV and radio, and writes for the Guardian, Huffington Post, Telegraph and Times Higher Education among others, and is a columnist for BBC History Magazine.

Gerald Seymour

Gerald Seymour exploded onto the literary scene in 1975 with the massive bestseller HARRY'S GAME. The first major thriller to tackle the modern troubles in Northern Ireland, it was described by Frederick Forsyth as 'like nothing else I have ever read' and it changed the landscape of the British thriller forever.Gerald Seymour was a reporter at ITN for fifteen years. He covered events in Vietnam, Borneo, Aden, the Munich Olympics, Israel and Northern Ireland. He has been a full-time writer since 1978.

Gervase Phinn

Dr Gervase Phinn is a teacher, freelance lecturer, author, poet, educational consultant and visiting professor of education. For fourteen years he taught in a range of schools, then acted as General Adviser for Language Development in Rotherham before moving on to North Yorkshire, where he spent ten years as a school inspector - time that has provided much source material for his books. He has four grown up children and four grandchildren and lives near Doncaster. Visit Gervase's website, www.gervase-phinn.com.

Henry Blofeld

Henry began writing about cricket, for The Times, in May 1962 and in 1972 he started his long career as a commentator with the BBC's Test Match Special. During his career he has written for numerous papers and broadcast for both radio and television for many networks around the world especially in Australia and New Zealand. Between 1991 and 1993 he joined Sky Television before returning to Test Match Special after the death of Brian Johnston early in 1994. Since 2002 Henry Blofeld has performed in his humorous one-man show in theatres all round the country, and later he teamed up with his former TMS producer, Peter Baxter, for more than 250 two-man shows. He also had a successful partnership with England Spin Bowler, Graeme Swann. Henry now tours the country with his one man show.

John Lazenby

John Lazenby trained on local newspapers in Sussex before joining the Press Association in Fleet Street, where he covered rugby union and cricket. He has worked for national newspapers, including The Times and the Sunday Times, and currently works as a freelance for the Daily Telegraph. He lives in London.

Lesley-Ann Jones

Lesley-Ann Jones is a journalist, newspaper columnist and broadcaster. The author of eight published books, she has enjoyed more than twenty-five years in music and the media. She lives in South-East London with her young children, the eldest having grown up and gone into the music business.

Merlin Carothers

Merlin Carothers is an international bestselling author whose books include PRISON TO PRAISE.

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis is a former banker who worked at Salamon Brothers in the height of Eighties boom. He writes regularly as a journalist and is the author of several books, including the international bestseller, LIAR'S POKER.Michael Lewis was born in New Orleans and educated at Princeton University and the London School of Economics. He has written several books including the international bestseller, Liar's Poker, widely considered the book that defined Wall Street during the 1980s. Lewis is contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and also writes for Vanity Fair and Portfolio magazine. He is married with three children.

New International Version

The New International Version is the world's most popular modern English Bible translation. Developed by Biblica, formerly the International Bible Society, the New International Version is the result of years of work by the Committee on Bible Translation, overseeing the efforts of many contributing scholars. The translators are drawn from a wide range of denominations and from various countries and they continually review new research in order to ensure the NIV remains at the forefront of accessibility, relevance and authority.www.hodderbibles.co.uk www.facebook.com/NIVBibles

Peter Stanford

Peter Stanford's previous investigations into the history, theology, enduring appeal and cultural significance of religious ideas include Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident; Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle; The Devil - A Biography; Heaven - A Traveller's Guide to the Undiscovered Country; and The She-Pope, an investigation of the Pope Joan legend. His other books include biographies of Bronwen Astor, Lord Longford and the Poet Laureate, C Day-Lewis, plus the polemical Catholics and Sex that became an award-winning Channel 4 series in 1992. He is a senior features writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Catholic weekly, the Tablet, where he is a columnist. He has presented programmes on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as BBC Radios 2 and 4 and the BBC World Service.

Rae Earl

Rae Earl was born in Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1971. She went to Hull University and following a brief stint at Parcel Force in Peterborough she joined one of Britain's biggest commercial radio groups as a copywriter in 1995. After six years of writing adverts that started with the line 'ATTENTION CARPET BUYERS!' Rae moved to broadcasting and now presents a breakfast show in the East Midlands together with her husband Kevin, for which she has been named British Midlands Radio Presenter of the Year.Rae Earl was born in Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1971. She went to Hull University and following a brief stint at Parcel Force in Peterborough she joined one of Britain's biggest commercial radio groups as a copywriter in 1995. After six years of writing adverts that started with the line 'ATTENTION CARPET BUYERS!' Rae moved to broadcasting and now presents a breakfast show in the East Midlands together with her husband Kevin, for which she has been named British Midlands Radio Presenter of the Year.

Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal on active service in 1971. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, and in 2003 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation.In 1993 Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE) because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £14 million for charity. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 ITV Great Briton Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. He is now the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge.